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Archive for May, 2008

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Look-In Magazine

Posted by Big Boo on May 14th, 2008

Look-In MagazineI know that my friend Philip will be smiling broadly when he sees the image accompanying this post, if only because it features ace 1980’s puppet series Star Fleet (note to self: must write about Star Fleet properly sometime). Today’s post is actually concerned with Look-In, the magazine for which this image was once the front cover.

Look-In, also subtitled as The Junior TV Times, was initially conceived in the 1970’s as a way for children to find out about all the TV programmes that might be of interest to them over the coming week, with a particularly heavy emphasis on any show that aired on ITV. Given that TV Times magazine initially only contained TV listings for the ITV channels, this is hardly surprising.

The magazine was quite often given a plug at the end of childrens TV programmes, especially if there happened to be an article in that weeks issue about the programme that had just aired, using the catchy phrase “Look out for Look-In! Every week!“. The typical issue consisted of TV star interviews, competitions, and features on TV shows. It was also chock full of cartoon strips detailing further adventures of your favourite shows, or even more documentary style strips detailing the history of bands and pop groups.

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School Geometry Sets

Posted by Big Boo on May 13th, 2008

School Geometry SetsThe pictured set may be a little fancier than the one I had when at school, but the contents haven’t changed a bit. As soon as you went to secondary school the first thing your new Maths teacher told you was to get hold of a geometry set for future lessons. All the kids would go home and tell their parents about this new requirement, and after your Mum had moaned a bit about “more expense” a trip to WH Smiths would follow to pick one up.

Most kids would end up with a geometry set made by stationery company Helix, which contained the following items:-

  • A pair of compasses
  • A protractor
  • A 15cm ruler
  • Two set squares
  • Some pencils (if you were lucky)

You’d proudly take your new set into your next Maths lesson, only to find you didn’t need it that day, and wouldn’t actually need it for weeks to come. The poor old geometry set then sat at the bottom of your bag for the next few months, until it was finally required. Scrabbling around in the bottom of the bag you’d find the geometry set, plastic lid broken and the contents chipped and scuffed, covered in mud from your sports kit. It was now next to useless…

…for its intended purpose that is. The pair of compasses was normally pretty sturdy, and the point made an effective weapon. The corners of the set square were also good stabbing implements, assuming they hadn’t broken off already, and the protractor could be quite an effective saw for cutting your mate’s giant pencil eraser in half as well. Ah, the innocence of youth, eh?

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Posted by Big Boo on May 12th, 2008

SupertedSuperTed was one of those cartoons that straddled the strange grey area between cartoons for little kids and cartoons for teenagers. Primary school children would definitely have enjoyed SuperTed’s adventures, but given that the hero of the show was basically a teddy bear by the time you reached around 10 years of age you would probably consider it a bit childish, but would probably watch it anyway if there was nothing better on.

The cartoon was first broadcast in 1982 on Welsh TV channel S4C, and was indeed a Welsh speaking show. It was soon dubbed into English to be shown in the rest of the UK where it initially aired as part of BBC1’s afternoon childrens line up. Derek Griffiths, a favourite from Play School provided the voice of SuperTed, whilst the great Jon Pertwee of Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge fame was the voice of Spottyman, SuperTed’s alien friend.

SuperTed himself was originally a normal teddy bear, who was rejected from the manufacturing line for some reason and tossed into the factory basement. By lucky coincidence Spottyman, a yellow humanoid with green spots, came across the bear and sprinkled some magic cosmic dust on it, bringing the bear to life. Spottyman took the bear to visit Mother Nature, who gave the bear secret powers, making him into SuperTed. Quite a convoluted set up it has to be said!

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Which Broadcaster Did You Watch For Childrens TV?

Posted by Big Boo on May 11th, 2008

Yay!  I’m pleased to say the my own personal choice for 8-bit home computers, the Commodore 64 was the winner of our last survey, although I’m not surprised to see the ZX Spectrum coming in second place with just one vote less.

 On to this weeks survey then, which I’m sorry to say has been a bit late making it on to the site (it’s a Sunday Survey I suppose).  This week we want to know which TV channel was the most often watched in your household for children’s TV.  I know some people had parents who were adamant that their off spring should only watch TV by the British Broadcasting Company.  This being a 1980’s site of course, you’re limited to just the two broadcasters.


Which channels were preferred in your household for childrens television?
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Teddy Ruxpin

Posted by Big Boo on May 9th, 2008

Teddy RuxpinTeddy Ruxpin first appeared in 1985 and was intended as an educational toy that would help and encourage young children to learn to read. The toy took the form of a cute and cuddly teddy bear who could actually read stories to a child, with it’s eyes and mouth moving in time with the words of the story.

How did it achieve this magical feat? Well, inside the bear there was an audio cassette tape player. The books that Teddy Ruxpin could read also came with an audio tape that slotted inside the bear, and obviously provided the required speech. The tapes contained signals which instructed the bear to blink or open or close it’s mouth, thus giving the effect of the bear reading the story. This was achieved by using the fact that an audio tape can store stereo sound, so one channel of sound was the speech and music, and the other channel (which was not played by the bear) contained the mouth and eye information. Any tape could actually be played in the bear, but the mouth and eyes would not move unless the tape was specially made for the toy.

Extra books and tapes could be bought, although I believe they were all about the adventures of Teddy Ruxpin and his pal Grubby, a second character also available as a toy that could be connected to the main toy allowing the two to interact with each other as the stories were told. Grubby was a strange orange thing with eight legs (two of which could be arms I suppose). I guess he was meant to be a caterpillar, but I really don’t know.

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BBC Micro

Posted by Big Boo on May 8th, 2008

BBC MicroIf you went to school during the 1980’s the chances are your school computers would have been the big beige slab that was the BBC Micro. This home computer was incredibly popular with schools due to it’s incredibly sturdy construction, and the fact that the British Broadcasting Corporation put their name to it which led to it being adopted as the default computer on any BBC produced show about computers. This then meant that all the posh kids at school got a BBC Micro instead of a Spectrum or Commodore 64.

The BBC Micro was originally launched in two forms, the model A, sporting 16K of RAM, and the model B, which had 32K. To all intents and purposes this was the main difference in the two machines (the A also lacked some of the connector ports on the back), and it made the model A almost redundant, since you couldn’t even use certain graphical modes on the model A due to a lack of available memory. You think a PlayStation 3 is expensive today, but the model A cost £299 and the model B a whopping £399, and that kind of money had significantly more value than it does today!

The BBC Micro had 7 different graphical modes, each with a different number. These ranged from 640×256 in monochrome through to 160×256 in a choice of 16 colours. One note about the number of colours though. The BBC could only display 8 different colours (the usual suspects of Black, White, Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue and Magenta) but you could set up another 8 colours which could flash at different speeds between any two of the available colours.

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Biggest Lego Tower Record Broken

Posted by Big Boo on May 7th, 2008

Biggest Lego TowerNot really 1980’s related this one, other than the fact the building with Lego bricks was one of my favourite things to do when I was growing up. This bank holiday weekend Legoland Windsor were holding an attempt at building the worlds largest lego tower, which it appears they have managed to do, although it is yet to be officially sanctioned.

The previous record was set just last year in Toronto, coming in at 29.3 metres or 96 feet. Legoland Windsor’s attempt hits 30.5 metres, and contains around half a million lego bricks. Visitors to the amusement park had the opportunity to build their own 20cm high section to add to the tower, which was then added to the top by using a crane – obviously the builder didn’t get the chance to add their own section personally. I’m assuming part of the rules are that the bricks can’t be glued together, so that must be some weight of Lego bricks there. I wouldn’t want to be near by if it were to topple over!

The design of the tower is a slowly tapering cross, which is apparently modelled on a Viking longboat mask. This design was obviously chosen since Legoland Windsor have recently opened some new Viking themed attractions, but the main reason for the record attempt was to mark the 50th anniversary of the Lego brick. I wonder how long they plan to keep the tower at the park, because I’d love to see it for myself.

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Cheggers Plays Pop

Posted by Big Boo on May 6th, 2008

Cheggers Plays PopQuite literally bouncing onto our screens during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s came Keith Chegwin, or Cheggers as he was nick-named, with his own pop music related quiz show for kids, Cheggers Plays Pop. The ever cheerful Cheggers would take two teams of school children through a number of challenges and quiz rounds set around the world of popular music.

Introduced by some fairly heavy music, with full on rock guitar and drums, the show was a barrel of fun from start to finish. The two teams were supported by the rest of their school, who sat behind them in rows all wearing the same coloured T-shirts, either red or yellow depending on the colour assigned to each school.

The question rounds were fairly standard fare. Each team was asked questions and scored points for getting them right. If the team didn’t know the answer, I think the other team got a chance to answer it. Pretty normal really. What made Cheggers Plays Pop so brilliant was the more physical games the kids had to play. Most were based around the idea of a relay race, with each child in the team having their turn, but this was spiced up by making them do mini assault courses. Cheggers would gleefully tell the kids what they had to do, normally demonstrating it at the same time. A typical challenge might be something like this:

So, first you’ve got to run round this pole three times, then try and walk across this beam without falling off. Jump up onto the inflatable, over the wall and then into the pool of foam. Dig out a ring, then return back over the inflatable, across the beam and put the ring on the pole before tagging the next person.

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